This September I made a smart purchase and got my hands on an Epic Screamer 10m Ltd that has happened to turn into my favorite kite. I picked this kite up as it was one of the kites in the Epic line up that appealed to me from the moment that it was introduced back in 2009. Long story short, I was intrigued to see how the Judge compared to the 10m Ltd and also the other C kites that are in my quiver. I made it known to Dimitri that I was interested in the Judge and before I knew it the man had sent me down an 8m kite to demo. Who does that? Not only that but the man hasn’t asked for anything in return (at no point did he ask me to put up any form of a review but it was just so that I could try this kite). The snow kite season has just started here in Northern Ontario and the winds have been pretty fickle. When the kite arrived the first thing that I did was pump it up so that I could have a look at the fit and finish of the overall package. With all Epic kites, they are well built and look quite sharp. The yellow and blue color scheme are a nice contrast to the bright white snow. This kite is bullet proof but also feels lighter than the 10m Ltd but not as light as my Ozone 9m C4. I love that the bag is big enough that I could easily fit another kite in as well and makes packing up so much easier (seems trivial but fighting to get a kite rolled up and into a bag that already feels a size too small isn’t a whole lot of fun for me).
The problem with winds in Northern Ontario is that they are generally on the light side and we have a tendency to ride kites that are in the 10-17m range. The joy of snow kiting is that you can rig smaller kites as you don’t need as much power to be able to ride. The first session that I had on the Judge was in winds that I should have been on my bigger kites. Both my Ozone C4 9m and the Vegas 9m couldn’t fly well enough to get me going in such fickle winds. The judge on the other hand had no issues and I was powered enough that it was a fun session. The Judge has an amazing low end and the first thing that I really liked about this kite was how simple it was to relaunch. Hands down the best relaunching C kite that I have ever used and to say that it is effortless is an understatement. In these light winds it is a struggle to get the C4 to launch and the Vegas was even more difficult (I am not going to put a number on the strength of the wind as I would be just guessing but it was really light). I found that the steering of the Judge in such light winds was excellent as well and I never had any issues with the kite wanting to fall out of the sky. I pulled the bar to whatever side and the kite responded immediately to the imput and moved to that direction. Rock solid is probably the best way to describe how well this kite handled.
My next session I was finally able to use the kite in winds that had the kite well powered and was able to see how it actually stacked up against the C4 and Vegas. To be absolutely fair, I am in the process of getting rid of my Vegas kites as I am not a fan of the batons and the 5th line setup. It isn’t that it is bad thing but in today’s modern C kites it is nice to have the simplicity of a 4 line set up. The first thing that became apparent is that all three kites are excellent choices and should make any rider happy with how easy they are to fly. The Judge kite felt as solid in the sky as the Vegas that they have the edge over the C4 (it does get flutter in the canopy at various times). Personally I have to say that I am most impressed with the Judge as this being the first version of this kite it is definitely a contender. It fly’s with ease and has great handling characteristics. At the end of the session I would say that all three have their strengths and weaknesses….
-Super solid in the sky and in the free riding setting is super easy to ride (you don’t need to be a pro and the average weekend warrior would be comfortable on this kite).
-The north bar is a great bar and the safety system on it is top notch
-I for one love the color scheme on these kites and they attract a lot of people who comment on them
-No pulleys and direct handling
-The deflate on this kite is horrible and the batons are such a pain
-Smaller bag and would like to see them beef it up more as they seem poorly made
-5th line setup is not for me but it isn’t the end of the world either for this kite
-Nice light kite that I found very simple to fly. There is something about the way that Ozone kites fly that make them special to the people that own them. They are definitely a kite flyers kite!
-I love the Ozone bar and found that it is well made without needing the flash
-BST inflate/deflate valve is hands down the winner
-Easy to relaunch
-No pulleys and direct handling
-The construction on these kites seems very light and it makes me nervous to how durable they will be (I haven’t had an issue yet but I am very careful with launching and landing my kites)
-My Ozone bar doesn’t have the push away QR but the new bars do
-The kite is a 2011 and not as nice looking as the newer models but looks aren’t everything!
-Hands down the easiest relaunch of the three kites
-Rock solid stability and the kite has a mini bridle with a slider that assists in relaunch. You can remove the bridle and have no pulley/slider but it makes the kite more like the Vegas in relaunch.
-Super easy to fly and I would say that of the three the Judge kite is the most user friendly. This is one of those kites that makes you want to push your riding as it provides confidence.
-Nice big bag that makes it no issue to put the kite away.
-No adjustments for bar pressure (not that the Judge has high bar pressure but it is nice to have options)
-Limited sizes and it would be nice if Epic would make this kite in a 13m
What really surprised me about the Judge was how easy this kite is to fly. The solid responsive steering makes the kite feel nimble but not so fast that it is hard to control. It was for me the best handling kite of the test and shocked me that I actually preferred its handling well over the Vegas and the C4! I still think that Ozone has it dialed in on how to make great flying kites and Epic falls into this category as well. It is nice to find a kite that feels right from the first time that you try it and the Judge is one of those kites (as well as the 10m screamer). It is so easy to fly that I would not have an issue in letting beginners use this kite as it is quite forgiving. It reminds me of the RPM in that it is a kite that anybody could use and be very happy with its handling. With the effortless relaunch of this kite it makes it so easy to learn on that it inspires confidence to try new things.
It’s bar pressure is on the light side (much lighter that the 10m screamer) but has enough that you know where the kite is at all times. Nobody is going to complain about getting too much bar pressure with this kite and you can easily kite all day with no issues. At times I find that the C4 could use a bit more bar pressure and the Judge seems just perfect. I still would like to see that they could improve the Judge by having adjustments to either increase or decrease that pressure. Some riders may favor more pressure and having the option to do that is a nice feature to have.
Like what I have said before I will mention again… all three kites are such great kites that you can’t go wrong with any of them. I would gravitate to the C4/Judge kites over the Vegas kites just for the 4 line setups and the lack of batons. The more time that I get to spend on the Judge the more I come to appreciate what a fantastic kite this is. The V2 kite that Dimitri has coming out will have a bridle like the C4 and I am curious to how that will make the kite perform. All the aspects of the 10m screamer that I love, I can see how the judge has influenced it. Both kites compliment each other so well that the 10m could have the Judge written on its side and would pass for it. If you have ever used the 3G 10m screamer and like that kite than you need to give the Judge kites a demo. I would recommend anyone to honestly try this kite as it may shock you to find that this may be the kite for you. The issues that people may have had with C kites in the past is not what this kite is about. It would be better to put this kite in the same Hybrid category as the new envy, park, C4 and RPM.
I guess the question that I have to ask myself is the Judge kite worth switching over from the current kites that I own? The simple answer would be yes… the ease of relaunch and handling alone are reasons enough just in that regard. The fact that Dimitri is willing to go beyond any other brand in getting his kites to potential buyers is a testament to the company that he runs. I am not a rep/team rider and just like 99% of the people who kite, I buy my own gear! I have become a big fan of this company but I refuse to use any product that I think is inferior! At the end of the day I work hard for each dollar in my pocket and want to be riding the gear that makes me the happiest! Granted that Epic kites may not be for everyone but for me I cannot state how happy I have been with the two kites that I have used. I recommended to anyone to get in touch with Dimitri and see how you can try the Judge or any of his kites in general. I am looking forward to what the future Judge kite is going to be like!